1) Educational innovations and shifting learning paradigms,
2) Pedagogical competence and professional development, and
3) Future skills and digitalization in education.In addition, the interests include three multidisciplinary themes that create context to research:
1) Work, learning and globalization,
2) International partnership dynamics, and
3) Research-based design of professional development programmes (see Figure 1).
The Global Education R&D is international and located geographically dispersed, and it has produced several educational innovations in recent years. Here, educational innovation means an idea, practice or project that is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption (Rogers, 2003, 12). For the Global Education R&D, educational innovations address to new professional development programmes that are designed in collaboration with partners and customers and offer novel solutions to the educational challenges. These programmes vary in their duration, curriculum and learning goals from a one-week intensive training to several years of cooperation and consultation in educational reforms.
The working context of the Global Education R&D is demanding; educational systems are very complex. They involve a wide range of players and a diverse range of direct and indirect influencers on the outcomes (Burdett & O’Donnell 2016). They are not only educational systems, but also sociopolitical systems, and simultaneously complex ecosystems where establishing causality is difficult (Kemmis & Heikkinen 2012). Instead of offering educational borrowing or “educational tourism” (Oates 2015, 2), the goal of the Global Education R&D is to make professional development programmes work for learning at scale, improve learning outcomes in practice, and evaluate impacts of interventions for future decision-making.
The Global Education R&D at HAMK has two challenges in fulfilling its mission and reaching its driving goals in the context of complexity. The first one is how to unleash the full research and development potential of the team members for educational innovations? The second one is how to organize research and development activities with global partners for developing capacity towards sustainable educational change? In the following sections, some approaches to tackling the challenges are introduced.
How to unleash the full research and development potential of the team members in educational innovations?
Instead of a traditional working group, the Global Education R&D is a specialist-driven and self-directed working team or network of teams (see e.g. Kauffeld 2006). It focuses on innovation acceleration within the identified capacities and different skills of team members engaged and works without the traditional managerial supervision; the director works merely as co-creator and facilitator in the team (Ryymin, Corado, Friman, Majuri, & Viskari 2018). The Global Education R&D at HAMK assesses its processes and outcomes regularly and has recently identified its potential and key elements in educational innovations (see Figure 2). In particular, customer-orientation, the ability to dialogue engaging vision and the hybrid expertise of team members support the inventive work. However, constant defining and redefining of working practices and procedures are needed. The reflections are introduced in detail in an open-access article in Revista Ibero-Americana de Estudos em Educação (Ryymin et al. 2018).
How to organize research and development activities with global partners to develop capacity for sustainable educational change?
The Global Education R&D at HAMK applies a variety of research methods according to research interest, setting and objectives of the development process. One of the frames of references in use is the Design-Based Implementation Research, DBIR (Fishman, Penuel, Allen, Haugan, & Cheng 2013). DBIR is a model at the intersection of educational policy, research and practice, which seeks to foster the creation of scalable and sustainable educational innovation through new combinations of research and practice partnerships (Fishman et al. 2013; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng, & Sabelli 2011). DBIR requires that educational practitioners, researchers and designers, service producers and customers, work together to design, implement and assess new practices for learning. The Global Education R&D has adapted and further developed DBIR for “a working framework” to support the development process of professional development programmes for global partners (see Figure 3).
The Global Education R&D at HAMK accomplishes six design principles in its R&D activities: 1) Context-sensitive, dialogical approach, 2) A focus on educational challenges of practice, 3) Commitment to iterative, collaborative design, 4) A concern to develop new knowledge on systematic inquiry, 5) A concern to develop capacity to sustain change in systems and 6) Development of a cross-setting perspective on teaching and learning.
Strong ties are needed especially in programmes that are aiming for educational reforms. In these initiatives the transfer of complex information, the diffusion of innovation and reform implementation require a context-sensitive and dialogical approach as well as mutual commitment to process facilitation and assessment.
The fundamental element is collaboration between global partners and Global Education R&D teams, “design with the user”. In the first place, partners define the goal and priorities of the professional development programme and facilitate process especially in regional development and the implementation phase, in which the focus is in the development of context-appropriate educational solutions. The partners observe the process, its outcomes and research results and align them to existing technological, legal, and regulatory policies, as recommended in United Nation’s principles of innovation (United Nations Development Programme 2018). The Global Education R&D at HAMK leads the design of the professional development programme process and pedagogical practices, collects and analyses data, and based on research results, generates new ideas and suggests further development of the process.
According to the experiences of the Global Education R&D at HAMK, a successful professional development process pays attention to participants’ organizational expectations and goals, as well as to individual’s expectations and learning objectives. The programme includes collaborative and dynamic contact learning, a facilitated regional development phase, and a follow-up and scaling phase.
It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and demonstrate its impacts on individuals, organisations and communities before scaling a solution.
Interestingly, The World Bank has found that these elements predict also well-performing teacher professional development programmes (Popva, Evans, Breeding, & Arancibia 2018, 24–27). However, it is always important to critically reflect and observe how the whole educational system is aligned or misaligned with learning (World Bank 2018) and understand the existing ecosystem in development (United Nations Development Programme 2018).
In line, a recent review of The World Bank of complex public management reforms, including education, highlighted the key elements of successful reforms: they started out with a clear articulation of the problem, together with an initial set of potential solutions, and then adopted solutions that emerged from experimentation during implementation. Final interventions tended to be hybrids, drawing on local and global evidence (World Bank 2017, 206).
The Global Education R&D -modified DBIR-approach has been implemented, for example, in Finnish-Brazilian professional development programmes of The VET Teachers for the Future (Ryymin, Kunnari, Joyce, & Laurikainen 2016), Gira Mundo Finlândia (Corado, Joyce, Laurikainen, & Ryymin 2017; D’Andrea, Ouverney-King, & Medeiros 2018) and the Finnish Teacher Trainer Diploma (Amado 2017). New adaptations of the approach are about to start with new Latin American, Caribbean and Asian partners.
The critical question for future research and development is how to scale educational innovation from custom-made solutions to widespread use across a range of contexts. Previous research has shown that the scaling of educational programs is very difficult (Dede, Honan, & Peters 2005). According to Dede & Wirth (2016), bringing an innovation to scale in education requires a design that is flexible enough to be used in a variety of contexts and involves teachers as co-evaluators and co-designers. Also technological innovations are having a significant impact on educational systems at all levels. Online learning environments, data analytics, social networking tools and other emerging technologies are disrupting the traditional education and offering also novel solutions for transnational education and its scaling.
The next step of the Global Education Research & Development at HAMK is to build and strengthen national and international partnerships and clusters of service producers in education, novel technology and business project management.
Essi Ryymin works as a R&D Manager and Principal Lecturer at School of Professional Teacher Education, HAMK.
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